The fog of war and international relations in Ukraine
Understanding the situation in Ukraine and how it will likely evolve in the future is impossible for me, partly due the inherent complexity and unpredictability of war and international relations, and partly because the main players have such strong incentives to strategically misrepresent their actions and intentions. Are the Ukrainians really getting killed by Russian artillery fire in unsustainable numbers, or are the Ukrainians putting pressure on Biden and the Europeans to step up arms deliveries? Is the U.S. committed to supplying the Ukrainians with needed weapons as rapidly as training and logistics permit, or are we slow-walking arms deliveries? Are we willing to leave the end-game negotiations entirely to the Ukrainians, or are we prepared to pressure Ukraine into a land-for-peace deal by withholding material support? Even if Biden/European leaders are willing to support the Ukrainians now, how will public opinion evolve (against Ukraine, I am afraid)? What happens if Russia turns off the oil or gas spigots? If Ukraine holds off the current Russian onslaught, will they be able to mount a sustainable offensive to reclaim captured land?
Granted I am not at all an expert in military affairs and international relations, but people who spend their lives studying these issues come to different conclusions that to me seem at least somewhat plausible.
Logistical challenges getting HIMARS/MLRS to Ukraine.
Russian energy warfare.
Russian information warfare, outwaiting public opinion.
And Biden asks Blinken and Austin to tone it down on war aims. (I guess it’s message discipline for thee, but not for me.)
I can’t understand your point here.
First “killed by Russian artillery fire in unsustainable numbers,” what would you regard as sustainable killing? is sustainable the point?
not second, but who’s counting; ” Biden asks Blinken and Austin to tone it down on war aims. (I guess it’s message discipline for thee, but not for me.)” well, if your war aims are to reduce Russia to a second rate power, it might not be best to advertise that.
next ” are we prepared to pressure Ukraine into a land-for-peace deal by withholding material support? ” well, I hope not: If someone starts shooting into your house and says if you shoot back he will blow it up, are you prepared to give him your garage and kitchen if he will stop shooting? [long enough to go get some more ammunition and rethink his strategy]? And what are we gonna offer Putin when he realizes the Czar had no right to sell us Alaska?
My point is that it’s really hard to see what’s going on now, to interpret statements and infer motives, and to predict the future course of events. There is a debate now over whether Russian artillery bombardments are so severe that they might enable the Russians to take significant territory, or even to a Ukrainian collapse. The Ukrainians have gone public with their concerns over losses. This may be just a ploy to get the U.S. and our allies to deliver more weapons – I think this is likely – but it’s hard to know, in part because such statements can lead to increased pressure for a settlement that Ukraine does not want, which suggests the statements may be true, or perhaps Ukraine just miscalculated the likely political fallout. It’s complicated! The Biden/Blinken/Austin piece is in the same vein. Biden himself has used highly inflammatory rhetoric, accusing Putin of war crimes and saying he cannot remain in office, but now Biden seems to be more equivocal. Is he preparing to pressure Ukraine to accept significant territory losses? I think that shifts in public opinion or changes in economic conditions, Russian oil and gas deliveries etc. could easily change Biden’s calculus and the support of Europeans, and perhaps this article suggests the administration is aware of this. It’s just really hard to see your way through all this complexity and contingency.
Not so hard really to come up with a strong hypothesis. Russia is achieving its goals in the conflict. Ukraine wants fully NATO engagement right now and that is not going to happen ever. Don’t get hung-up on what Blinken or Austin or even Biden has said or will say. Right now, I would say it is a good bet that those guys are working hard to make it look like the European allies are the ones “bailing” on the effort, and I bet the Europeans will oblige them. And why not? Ukraine cannot prevail without full NATO involvement and that negative decision was made months ago.
another case in point. Ukraine looks to me as if it could prevail with the support it is already getting. just a little more of it in a more timely way. and even if it took full NATO or just US involvement, it would be worth it. If we remain just a little brave in the face of some financial stress, we won’t need to push Putin to the little red button, and I suspect even he has advisors who will disconnect him if he makes a move toward it. Just as we had right here in our own merry little land a few short years ago.
well, now that you put it that way… of course. but unless we have propagandists brilliant beyond my imagination, Putin is a disease upon the earth and needs to be contained if not eradicated whatever it costs us in terms of driving everywhere as fast and far as we want to go.
The Russians have their own propagandists, clumsy though they be. We had one visit us here at AB not very long ago. Cresus, I think he called himself. In honor no doubt of that Croesus who asked the Oracle if he should start a war against his neighbors the Persians. Oracle said “if you do you will destroy a great empire.” so he did. empire he destroyed was his own. i’m hoping the rule still applies.
I’m a little unhappy that you seem confused about all this. Of course we are ALWAYS a little confused if we pay attention, We NEVER know all the facts, much less the Truth. All we can do is make our best guess and do the best we can. Which in this case, I think, is not to sow pointless doubt in the face of the enemy. You, of course, are under no obligation to agree with me.
Ok, what would you do to assist the Ukraine?
“President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbor.
In another apparent nod aimed at placating Moscow, Zelensky said he is open to ‘compromise’ on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that President Vladimir Putin recognized as independent just before unleashing the invasion on February 24.
‘I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that . . . NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine.’
Zelensky said in an interview aired Monday night on ABC News.”
as you know i would have met the Russians at the border with the United States Air Force. That is still my favorite solution, though delay, as always, has made it more difficult.
If people more responsible than I am think that is not prudent, I would continue with supplying them the arms they need, and make the sanctions against Russia water tight.
I might even try a little piracy on the high seas to see that the grain Russia stole from Ukraine gets to the people that need it.
I would “bear any burden, pay any price” as John Kennedy said, to applause.
I would NOT do what my old “peace at any price” friends recommend. For a very good story about where that goes, the story of Britain in the 1930’s is instructive. The similarities, sometimes word for word, are eerie. (See “The Last Lion” a biography of Churchill. i think volume two covers the period in question.)
You do not “placate” an armed robber. You kill him
if you can. You lock him up when you can. you might talk nice to him while he has a gun pointed at you…but if he is insane, as Putin is, he just enjoys that all the more before he pulls the trigger.
If you believe the stories, Chamberlain handed over the Czechs to buy time. Others may disagree.
I believe delaying Putin’s desire to take over Ukraine aggravates the hell out of him. If he really is that close to death, he stands a good chance of leaving this world a broken man. Denying him his goals could make him look weak; but them, who replaces him? Replaces him after death if this conflict is still going on?
It is a conventional conflict with no nukes. We roll over our military supplies and build new. Good practice to see if our stuff works. The US also gets to see what doesn’t work. Suddenly, the man on the ground is king against planes and tanks. Those pesky missiles are an equalizer. The Russians are big on talk and they still have not rolled over the Ukrainians.
actually, I believe it was me who started that story. but reading Manchester’s book convinced me that Chamberlain was an appeaser from the start. but I like my story better, because it is so very British to take one for the team. Chamberlain sacrificing his reputation…even after the war…to maintain Perfidious Albion’s credibility for future deception.
as for the missiles from the ground, i think the USAF has measures to deal with that, In any case, their presence at the border would have stopped the invasion before it began. There is a reason why generals get so excited about shows of cowardice in the face of the enemy. But there are no simple answers.
as for rolling over the Ukrainians, the Russians have evolved a pretty good strategy: set up long range artillery and destroy cities and murder people from a safe distance.
There is a simple answer for that, if we don’t lose our nerve. and our souls.
appeasing Hitler from the start was no dishonor..Britain was disarmed and had bad memories from the Great War only fifteen years in the past. so buying time made sense, if humiliating.. on the other hand, America has by far the strongest military in the world. and giving the Russians the heart of Ukraine is both dishonorable and foolish. It will only make them stronger and they will be back.
Here is another story I like, from Chicago about 1930. My uncle was in the second grade. An eighth grader had taken to beating up second graders. So my uncle organized a gang of second graders and caught the big kid alone. I believe baseball bats had a role in the ensuing action. The beatings stopped. Morale improved.
In the fifties, my parents went East to a funeral and I was housed at a neighbors. They had two kids my age. We all caught the Flu. Since these were college educated people, they went to the library and got us a few books for us to read. One was the “Battle of Britain.” It might have been there I read of Chamberlain tossing Czechoslovakia in the fire under false German pretense. It might have been other places I read this too. The Movie “Darkest Hour” made a point of Britain buying time. It doesn’t matter.
During Vietnam when my cousin was flying F4s, and we were flying F8s, F106s, B52s over the country, SAMs were knocking planes out of the sky. We had F8s in Cuba in 1970 at the airbase there. Now we have soldier based weapons being used against helicopters and tanks.
The 155mm howitzers provided to the Ukrainians just need a different round to do the distance. It will supersede the Russians range. I worked with Paladin version of this Howitzer.
We are out of the post’s topic. I am military as is my family and going back since we came to this country a couple of hundred years ago.
oh, just to be clear:
we are not fighting for Ukraine. They are fighting for US.
thanks for the information. i’ll keep it in mind. Manchester’s, well regarded, book gives no hint of the Brits “buying time”. I never saw the movie. In my deep ignorance of current military doctrine, I have no idea how American planes would do against Russian missiles, but I’d be very much surprised if they haven’t thought of something in all this time. Probably more a matter of tactics than a one on one showdown at noon in Dodge City.
Don’t think I am blood thirsty. I am as squeamish as anybody, especially about people unjustly convicted or horribly punished. But I have learned from a lifetime of observation and personal experience, that cowardice in the face of the enemy is the worst strategy. If a soft word turneth away wrath, a low growl can prevent unfortunate mistakes.
(another story i like to tell: i had a dog once. he didn’t bark. but if a stranger came onto our porch at night, they might wonder why the floor was shaking. low growl, you see.)